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System Builder Marathon Q3 2015: AMD Mini PC

Component Selection

Like many readers, I have questioned past SBMs about hardware selection. Having gone through it now, I have a lot more sympathy for Paul, Don, Thomas, and the other SBM builders. Having a completely firm budget is quite restricting. The machines I've built in the past for myself, family and friends had general budget ranges. An $800 budget usually meant that going to $820 was allowed if the extra $20 meant a greater than 2.5 percent boost in performance. I'm not allowed to do that here. If you can't find a perfect mix of parts and prices, you end up leaving money on the table. Sometimes you get lucky and it doesn't matter a whole lot. In the sub-$1000 range, every dollar counts.

The Munchkin went through two major part iterations. The case, hard drive, and power supply all changed dramatically between the two. My first submitted part list didn't include an optical drive and my chosen GPU had a $20 instant rebate. This allowed me to fit a 240 GB SSD and SeaSonic modular power supply. Management told me I had to include an optical drive. My case didn't have a 5.25" bay, meaning I'd have to get a more expensive external drive or a different case. While looking at my options, the GPU discount ended. That meant I was effectively $40 over budget. Cutting $40 meant dropping the SSD for a mechanical drive and swapping for a less prestigious PSU.

Cooler Master Elite 130
Cooler Master Elite 130
AMD Athlon X4 860K
AMD Athlon X4 860K
ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+
ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+
Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB
Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB
ASUS GeForce GTX 970 TURBO
ASUS GeForce GTX 970 TURBO
CORSAIR CX500M v2.3
CORSAIR CX500M v2.3
Western Digital Blue WD10EZEX (1TB)
Western Digital Blue WD10EZEX (1TB)
Asus DRW-24F1ST
Asus DRW-24F1ST
Microsoft Windows 8.1 (64-bit)
Microsoft Windows 8.1 (64-bit)
Eric Vander Linden is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews motherboards, specializing in high-end Intel chipsets.